Iranian Regime’s Concerns Persist Ahead of May Elections

Khamenei focused his speech on two main topics, covering both Iran’s economic crisis and the upcoming presidential elections in May. However, his words on the economy can be evaluated as a prelude to the disputes that will most definitely engulf Iranian politics. The comments Khamenei made on the economy were mainly focused on the failures and embarrassments brought about by the cabinet of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, including increasing unemployment and doubt over statistics published by the government.

Unlike Western democracies, there are no real “political parties” in Iran. Despite all the brouhaha in the media about “moderates” or “reformists” facing off against “hardliners,” they are all part of one system loyal to one leader, and are only considered members of different factions within this one system. Their only difference hovers over how to maintain their dictatorial regime in power.

Khamenei very specifically said the people should not elect a “tired” president and went as far as saying that the president must not be involved in any case of economic corruption.When discussing the elections, Khamenei very vividly referred to Rouhani’s cabinet as an inactive, low energy and a “non-revolutionary” entity. These very same terms were used the day before by various Friday prayer imams and representatives of his faction in the parliament.

Rouhani wasted no time in responding, taking advantage of a speech in the city of Sanandaj, in western Iran, on March 25. In response to Khamenei demanding that the government must present a report card of its accomplishments, Rouhani targeted the judiciary – known to be extremely loyal to Khamenei’s viewpoints – and called for this powerful institution to present its own report.

The question now is what the purpose of Khamenei’s remarks might have been. Does he truly intend to eliminate or disqualify Rouhani from the polls in any way?

Of course, Khamenei would prefer Rouhani to not be his regime’s next president. However, it appears he can no longer disqualify Rouhani through the ultraconservative Guardian Council, a 12-man body selected directly and indirectly by Khamenei, that is in charge of vetting all candidates for all so-called elections in Iran.

Although various members of Khamenei’s faction may seek such a fate for Rouhani, it appears that Khamenei himself knows the consequences of this outcome. A development of this type would significantly tear open the rifts inside the Iranian regime and provide adequate circumstances for Iranian society to explode in uprisings and protests similar to those of 2009.

To this end, Khamenei will go the distance to discredit and destroy Rouhani’s image and as a result decrease his popularity at the polls in a second and engineered round of elections. This would be the easiest of all scenarios for Khamenei, resulting in the elimination of Rouhani “by the books.”

And if forced to accept Rouhani for another term, the least Khamenei expects is to have a completely weakened Rouhani who won’t raise any demands and follows his orders. Khamenei especially needs such conditions after he lost one of his regime’s main pillars, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Despite their differences, Khamenei knows that the road ahead is far more difficult without him. To this end, he senses a need to continue his attacks against Rouhani to gain a full and complete control over all aspects of his regime.

The irony, however, lies in the fact that Khamenei faces many obstacles in his path to this objective.

First, the probability of a social outburst transforming into nationwide uprisings would be no less than a nightmare for him. If such a threat did not exist, rest assured Khamenei would have disqualified Rouhani through the Guardian Council and rid himself of this problem.

Second, Khamenei also has major reservations about the huge rifts existing within his own faction, vivid through the fact that his camp has not been able to select and support a single candidate for the elections. If Khamenei is unable to convince the hardliners to rally behind one candidate, he can assume the election lost beforehand.

Third, all said and done, who is the one figure Khamenei can select to have his camp rally behind? Does such a person even exist in Iran today who can bring an end to the long-lasting divisions among the so-called hardliners?

This all comes down to the major challenge before the entire Iranian regime: Can these sham elections be held without the population rising up, similar to 2009, in demand of fundamental change? We’ll find out soon enough.

Originally posted in The Diplomat

Iran’s Regime of Terror by the Numbers

In 38 years the country’s Islamist regime has taken the people into poverty and illiteracy while the leadership has gotten richer and richer.

The mullahs now ruling Iran were able to hijack the revolution that sacked the U.S.-backed Shah regime back in February 1979. However, the 38-year report card left by the mullahs has only raised extreme anger throughout the Iranian society.

Numbers are very vivid in revealing the undeniable atrocities caused by the mullahs’ disastrous policies.

The daily trend of continuous executions in Iran has raised anger amongst the international community for years. Iran is considered the number one executioner per capita.

The number of executions in Iran “paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale,” according to Amnesty International.

Suicides are also on the rise, especially amongst women, ranking Iran first in the Middle East and third in the world. There are also reports of a growing number of teenagers committing suicide.

Drug addiction is yet another disastrous result of the mullahs’ rule in Iran. The amount of drugs spreading amongst women and teenagers is skyrocketing and state-run media are citing experts estimating at least 8 million Iranians are suffering from this dreadful phenomenon.

Iran’s roads are even considered very dangerous, as the mullahs refuse to allocate the necessary budget to provide safe passages. 20,000 people die each year in Iran and 300,000 injured (150% more than the global average). Iran’s annual road accident casualty statistics are even compared to an all-out war.

Poverty has increased to an extent that many Iranians have resorted to gathering recyclable products, food stuffs and other trash to make ends meet, and the homeless sleeping in pre-dug graves.

All the while Iran is a country sitting on a vast sea of crude oil and natural gas, with new reports of 2 billion barrels of shell oil discovered in western Iran.

The country’s economy, however, has nosedived to such an extent that more than 50% of the industrial units have gone bankrupt or are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Unemployment is now a critical and increasing crisis. Nearly 15 million people are unemployed in Iran, according to an Iranian economy expert.

The mullahs’ policies have literally destroyed the entire “middle class” in Iran, leaving the population divided between a small percentage with massive riches, and a high percentage living in poverty.

30% of the country’s population is hungry and have no bread to eat,” said Ali Akbar Sayari, Deputy Health Minister in the cabinet of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran has an urban population of 65 million, of which one third live in city outskirts comparable to shacks and slums.

“Around 20 million people are living in 53,000 hectares (204 square miles) of non-official residential areas,” according to Mohammad Saeed Izadi, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Road and Construction.

Financial corruption is spreading throughout society like cancer. The numbers have become massive and even unimaginable. Above all is the apparatus linked to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose riches value at $95 billion.

Iran’s environment is also on the verge of complete annihilation.

“If the water crisis in Iran continues, the country will soon become very similar to Somalia and 50 million Iranians will be forced to leave the country,” said Isa Kalantari, Rouhani’s advisor in water and agricultural matters.

Even the workplace is considered unsafe under the mullahs’ rule, as Iran ranks first in the world in workplace incidents.

“Iran is the world record holder in construction accidents,” said Akbar Shokat, head of the Construction Workers’ Guild Center in an interview with the state-run ISNA news agency.

Illiteracy is plaguing millions of Iranian children, depriving them of education due to their family’s economic and social problems. Iran has a population of 10 million illiterates and 10 million low-literates, according to Rouhani’s Deputy Education Minister.

Yet another repulsive custom rendered from the mullahs’ regime has been child marriages. Poverty forces families to give off their young daughters, leaving them to face unthinkable spiritual and physical damages from arranged marriages.

43,000 girls between the ages of 10 to 15 are currently married in Iran,” according to regime officials.

This is merely a tip of the iceberg of the mullahs’ horrific track record in the past 38 years, making serious measures against this regime and in support of the Iranian people all the more necessary.

Originally posted in The Clarion Project

A look at Iran’s collapsing industries

At a time when The Wall Street Journal reports the regime in Iran has enjoyed “more than $10 billion in sanctions relief,” policies implemented by Tehran have laid the grounds for the total annihilation of industries across the country. Unemployment is skyrocketing and domestic production lines are coming to a standstill.

Iran was home to around 155,000 small industrial units, creating around 4.4 million jobs. In recent years, however, 45% of these units, amounting to nearly 70,000, have been forced to close down and to this end 2 million people became unemployed.

Construction projects in Iran have nearly come to a complete halt, and the regime is further seeking a so-called “privatization” scheme. It is worth noting, however, the “private” firms involved belong to senior regime officials and their inner circles, making Iran’s private sector associated directly or indirectly to the regime.

Entities such as the Revolutionary Guards, state police, the “Mostazafan” and “Shaheed” foundations, the “Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam” – Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam, and other institutes linked to the regime’s inner power circle, with the number of such illegal entities topping 6,000… have all played roles in the status quo establishing in Iran.

Inflation, skyrocketing prices and increasing profits by the banks making goods even more expensive have all lead to a trend of decreasing competition from domestically manufactured goods. The result is none other than factories and workshops going bankrupt.

Industrial unit owners raised specific demands in a meeting with Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.

“Industrial unit owners have many complaints over this administration’s last year in office. They protested their shortcomings, of the lack of coordination amongst various apparatuses to set aside all obstacles set before production… They said administration decisions have caused such damages to this sector,” the state-run media reported. “Recession has deepened to such an extent even the Vice President, with all his executive powers, cannot get the industries’ wheels rolling.”

Results such as an 18% tax increase on the production sector, 32% in 2014 and 23% in 2015 is the report card of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in relation to taxes, and 2016 has no prospect of providing any improvement in this regard.

The banks in Iran, never loyal to set interest rates, obviously controlled by the regime, are increasing facilitations and other measures to increase their own benefits, further reports indicate.

In such conditions media inside Iran are reporting on a daily basis of the country’s industry going down the drain, giving a small picture of the utterly chaotic status of Iran’ economy.

Despite all this, entities linked to the regime and wealthy individuals involved in this regard, are importing goods into the country in colossal quantities.

While supporting the import of foreign goods and profiting from this phenomenon, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh, Rouhani’s incumbent Minister of Industry has even called on Iran’s customs to lift all restrictions placed over a “famous Korean brand,” going as far as demanding the cancellation of an $850 million fine. Iran’s customs officials, however, believe the ministry has no authority to make any such demands.

The Korean company had sidestepped custom regulations and imported parts and fined for not having any reservation for the ruling government’s rights, and as a result fined $850 million. However, Nematzadeh wrote a letter to the customs chief demanding this fine be cancelled, reports show.

Analysts believe such concessions to South Korea by Iran has roots in the mullahs’ utter isolation by foreign investors. This is especially concerning for Tehran following the recent U.S. elections, as far less foreign investors are now willing to take such a risk of signing contracts with Tehran. Despite all this, such concessions by Rouhani’s cabinet have catastrophic effects on Iran’s economy.

While the Iranian regime may argue the speed of sanctions relief has been too slow, even in violation of the agreement, it would be hard to claim Tehran has a positive intention with such money after the parliament recently called for expanded military spending.

“Iranian lawmakers approved plans on Monday (January 9th) to expand military spending to five percent of the budget, including developing the country’s long-range missile program… The vote is a boost to Iran’s military establishment – the regular army, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and defense ministry – which was allocated almost 2 percent of the 2015-16 budget,” according to Reuters.

This comes at a time when a high degree of malnutrition due to poverty has literally become part of life in some Iranian provinces.

“Malnutrition in the central Zagros areas has been completely forgotten. Poverty has become a way of life for villagers here,” according to salamatnews.com.

“30% of the people are hungry, meaning they lack any guaranteed food source,” said Iranian Deputy Health Minister Ali Akbar Sayari.

It is quite obvious why industrial units are closing one after another, and why production comes to a major halt under a completely corrupt economy in Iran, run a regime with foul intentions. This allows senior regime officials and their close elite to pocket huge profits through importing cheap goods.

This is the very reason why the Iranian people are living under such economic hardships, with so many suffering due to poverty, unemployment and …